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Cover Letter:

05 February 2007


Dear friends and colleagues,

RE: Draft WHA resolution opposes genetic engineering of smallpox

The WHO Executive Board met from 22-30 January 2007 in Geneva and adopted a draft resolution on smallpox (variola), which will now be transmitted to the 60th World Health Assembly (WHA) in May 2007.

The Board's resolution requests the WHO Director General to ensure that any research undertaken does not involve genetic engineering of the variola virus.

This is a step in the right direction, but loopholes remain in the resolution, which threaten to undo this progress.

The two most important issues are to clarify that genetic engineering involving synthetic genes is similarly prohibited and to ensure that the current rules on smallpox DNA distribution are not relaxed.

These have to be urgently addressed, in order to ensure that the efforts to disallow genetic engineering of smallpox are effective. Moreover, largely due to opposition from the US, the resolution failed to fix a new date for destruction of the virus stocks, which means that biosafety, public health and bioweapons risks remain.

Please find below a report of the discussions, which was first published in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) #6180 on 31 January.

With best wishes,

Chee Yoke Heong
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
Website: and

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